“Hogwarts Legacy,” the latest game in the Harry Potter franchise, is dividing the fandom as fans debate whether to support J.K. Rowling over a series of remarks about transgender individuals.
The newest game by Avalanche Software and Warner Bros. Games is an open-world role-playing game that allows players to enter the world of Harry Potter as a wizard, but the game was boycotted by some across social media before its actual release. On TikTok alone, videos with the term “Boycott Hogwarts legacy” were viewed 3 billion times.
The controversy comes in the wake of the Harry Potter book series author J.K. Rowling making multiple comments on her Twitter against transgender women entering female spaces, and the biological equivalency of transgender women and biological women. Many Harry Potter fans have called her comments transphobic.
Tom Maughan, a BYU pre-business major and Harry Potter fan, weighed in on the controversy.
“I think we live in a different world than J.K. Rowling wants to live in. The gender roles and things I don’t think are necessary. I’m personally excited for the game … I don’t care what J.K. Rowling has said,” Maughan said.
In an effort to alleviate controversy and accusations surrounding her name, Rowling released an essay on her website in 2020 laying out her thoughts on transgender activism. As a sexual assault survivor, Rowling expressed concern for legal exploitation by predators to assault women in female spaces. She also expressed the same concern for violence against transgender individuals.
Rowling has been described by trans activists as a “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.” According to her, one critic called her “Voldemort,” the villain of the Harry Potter franchise. Rowling dismissed this as name-calling used to shut down criticism.
Rowling, who now resides in Scotland, continues to speak out against the Scottish government’s transgender legislation.
Prominent trans activist and YouTuber Jessie Earl took to Twitter to say that any support of Harry Potter related media helmed by J.K. Rowling is harmful to trans people.
Landen Davis, a member of the LGBTQ community and a Harry Potter fan, believes one can appreciate Rowling’s work without agreeing with her politics.
“I’ve pretty well been able to separate my fantasy and experience as a child from what she decides to do now. I don’t think the Harry Potter I had when I was younger has anything to do with what J.K. Rowling posts now.”
The boycott of the game itself has received scrutiny because of its targeting. Although the Harry Potter universe is her intellectual property, J.K. Rowling has no creative involvement in the game. However, Earl said Rowling uses Harry Potter’s ongoing popularity and success to legitimize her anti-trans sentiment.
The game allows players to attend Hogwarts in the 1800s, learning spells, battling monsters and exploring the open world. The game also reportedly allows for transgender character selection. When designing your character, gamers simply choose features that appeal to them.
Despite the boycotts, Hogwarts Legacy was still set to be a success even before its release. In the weeks prior to the Feb. 10 release, the game topped the best-selling list for PlayStation 5 games on Amazon and on Steam.
BYU student Matt Arntsen is a fan of the franchise.
“I imagine the game will be a massive hit. I think the concept of boycotting, for people who feel like that’s a worthy cause, can go for it. But I think there will be a massive community that at least tries the game,” he said.
While the earnings for the game have not yet been released, it has received mostly positive reviews. The game received an 84 on Metacritic, a 9/10 on Steam and a 9/10 on IGN. However, an article by Wired gave it a 1/10, accusing it of being both poorly made and having a negative connection to transphobia.